Monday, September 29, 2008

Looking in both directions

And so we come to the end of another year.

It's traditional at this time to look back, take stock and prepare to move forward.

So what has this old year brought for me personally?

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Keeping promises

With Blog Action Day coming up on 15th October with this year's focus on poverty (I mentioned it here) here's a small reminder from Avaaz that we don't have to accept there's nothing we can do to make a difference.

Dear friends,

Canada, France and Italy are threatening to break their poverty promises by slashing aid budgets. Sign the petition to stop them -- and poverty expert Jeff Sachs will deliver our messages to world leaders gathered at the UN this week!

Click to Sign Now!
World leaders gather this Thursday at the United Nations to renew the fight against extreme poverty. But three countries -- France, Canada, and Italy -- are threatening to undermine the world's anti poverty efforts, by slashing their development aid budgets and breaking their international promises.

Sarkozy, Harper, and Berlusconi promised to contribute 0.7% of their national income to fighting poverty -- aid money that would save millions of lives, and still leave these donor countries with 99.3% of their money. But apparently, they think 99.3% is not enough.

Our best chance to keep these rich countries to their word on aid delivery is to raise the alarm in New York this week. Sign our petition now, spread it to friends and family -- and our friend, world famous economist and top UN official on poverty, Jeffrey Sachs will deliver it in speeches to the assembled heads of state at the UN summit this Thursday. The more names on the petition, the stronger the message that promises on poverty must be kept.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On my balcony ...

... there are plump red tomatoes ...
... a huge runner bean plant, grown from seed by Little Guy at school and brought home in a paper cup ...
... rosemary, chives, thyme, bay leaves ...
... lots of flowers, many of them self-seeded (the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind)

And a pesky squirrel, who digs up the soil and chucks it about to bury its nuts.

I saw it last week when I looked out of the window.
It stared back at me defiantly. (It did! I swear it did!)
And it was nibbling on a ... crab shell!
(Image from Treehugger)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lit Bits

Lots of novel ideas out there ...

Last week's Independent on Sunday had a special issue examining whether intelligent literature can survive in the digital age. (See here.)
John Walsh's article, Spine-chilling, talks about changes in the way people read and quotes Nicholas Carr:
'Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.'
There's a section where 8 'experts' predict the future (which didn't scare me as much as I thought it might).
And an interview with James Patterson - who outsells, J K Rowling, John Grisham and Dan Brown PUT TOGETHER!
(I always assumed his ghost writers did all the work until I heard his schedule - he begins working at 5.30am , 7 days a week. His empire may rake in $1.5billion - but if that's what it takes, he can keep it!)

And here's a new initiative - Bibliotherapy, therapeutic literary solutions to the stresses and strains of everyday modern life available at the School of Life.

Several of the Bookarazzi bods have new books being launched this month.
Check out Tania Hershman at Titania Writes, Liane Spicer at Wordtryst and Caroline Smailes at ... er ... Caroline Smailes.

The Writer's Handbook Live event is taking place in London, Saturday 27 September.

And don't forget to pop along to Rich4Thought to see how Prometheus is getting on.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Murder, She Wrote

I need your advice.

I'd be grateful for suggestions for a suitable response to the 17 year old (boy? youth? soon-to-be twitching corpse?) who emailed the following to me:

Q: How many women with MENOPAUSE does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One! ONLY ONE!!!! And do you know WHY? Because no one else in this house knows HOW to change a light bulb! They don't even know that the bulb is BURNED OUT!! They would sit in the dark for THREE DAYS before they figured it out. And, once they figured it out, they wouldn't be able to find the fucking light bulbs despite the fact that they've been in the SAME FUCKING CUPBOARD for the past 17 YEARS! But if they did, by some miracle, actually find them 2 DAYS LATER, the chair they dragged to stand on to change the STUPID light bulb would STILL BE IN THE SAME SPOT!!!!! AND UNDERNEATH IT WOULD BE THE WRAPPER THE STUPID LIGHT BULBS CAME IN!!! BECAUSE NO ONE EVER CARRIES OUT THE GARBAGE!!!! IT'S A WONDER WE HAVEN'T ALL SUFFOCATED FROM THE PILES OF GARBAGE THAT ARE A FOOT DEEP THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE!! IT WOULD TAKE AN ARMY TO CLEAN THIS DAMNED HOUSE!

I'm sorry.... What was the question?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another (de)fine mess ...

I was going to write a post about Authonomy, the new website from Harper Collins, where unpublished authors can post their WIP and get feedback (and more) while the publisher gets the benefit of having the online community sift through its slushpile to reveal any hidden gems.

But then I got distracted by the name 'Authonomy'.
's good, innit?
So I've come up with some new definitions of my own.
Please feel free to come up with any further suggestions.

Authorgraphic: a book containing both words and illustrations
Authogonal: as above but all the illustrations consist of only right angles
Authordocks: books that don't rock the boat
Authorities: literary experts
Authorisation: permission to write
Authormatic: when the words just flow
Authoritarians: bossy authors
Authornology: books about birds
Authorpaedic: includes books like The Lovely Bones, The Bone Garden and The Bone Collector
Authopteran: insects who write
Authordontists: writers of books you can get your teeth into
Authoptics: the study of writing books that have to be seen to be believed

Monday, September 15, 2008

Greek geeks and blogging demi-gods

That Prometheus, eh? What is he like ...?

He only goes and nicks some fire and gives it to humans, thereby ensuring our very existence.
And what thanks does he get, eh?
Well, how would you like to have your liver pecked out by birds on a daily basis?

I know what you're thinking ...
You're thinking, 'What is she on about? Again ...'

So I'll tell you.
Rich is a long-standing member of my writers' group.
He's a talented writer, has bags of style, counts art and music among his many talents and is a loyal friend.

He also happens to have haemophilia.
Oh - and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood.
He's about to embark on a course of Interferon in order to attempt to halt the damage to his liver.

Now, while most people would be wallowing in self pity at this stage, that's a road Rich has always refused to travel.
Instead, he's come up with a way to use the experience in a constructive way.

This is what he says:

I decided to utilise the experience for a novel. After much thought, the myth of Prometheus on the rock came to me.
The Hepatitis C virus attacks the liver causing scarring (cirrhosis) eventually leading to cancer. It has all the effects of being an alcoholic without any of the fun. The image of Prometheus having his liver pecked at every day seemed resonant with possibilities.

He's also started a blog, Rich4Thought, to record the progress with both the medical treatment and his literary response to it.

Please pop over and take a look and join me in welcoming this valuable new member of the blogosphere.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Edit me

A critique of my life (a work in progress)

Overall, this life has far too many confusing multiple plot lines and the theme is often unclear.
Many of the characters are too bizarre to be convincing.
The author is relying too heavily on apparent coincidences which stretch credibility.

Structurally, this life is sound, moving as it does in a straightforward linear chronological fashion, which is ideal for a life.

Stylistically, however, there is much work to be done if this life is to fulfill its potential.
The author frequently exceeds the bounds of good taste and risks losing sympathy.
Her reply, 'I couldn't give a shit,' is evidence of her apparent inability to give a shit.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yesterday ...

Ring ... ring ...
Me: Hiya
G: Where are you?
Me: Went to see A. On bus crossing Battersea Bridge.
G: You know I asked you to fix the lock on the front door this morning ...
Me: I did! I screwed it back in ...
G: Well I can't get in. The key's just turning ...
Me: Oh. Bollocks. You'll have to force the door ...

Ring ... ring ...
G: What?
Me: Are you in yet?
G: No! Stop driving me mad!
Me: OK. Sorry. Call me when you're in.

Arrive home. No sign of G. A wheelbrace and a heavy-duty spanner are lying outside our battered but defiantly closed door. There's a small pile of sawdust on the floor.
Ring ... ring ...
Me: Where are you?
G: Gone to pick up First Born
Me: His thing starts at 5.00. He won't be out for ages yet ...
G: Oh. OK. On my way home now

Bash ... bang ... crash ...
Door remains stubbornly closed.
Me: If you give me a boost, I think I can get through that open window and onto the top bunk.
Hoist ... lift ... puff ...
Visions of fire brigade coming to extricate my wedged body from window.
Me: Um. Maybe not ...

Bang ... crash ... bash ...
Ring ... ring ...
Me: Oh no, our phone's ringing inside!
G: It's probably FB calling to pick him up
Me: I'll phone the school

Ring ... ring ...
School: The office is now closed until morning ...

Crash ... bash ... bang ...
Neighbour arrives and lets us into his flat to use phone.
G goes to pick up FB (again).
Call emergency repairs.
Ring ... ring ...
Recorded message instructs caller to hang on.
I do.
For 15 mins.

Me: I'm locked out
Them: Oh dear. We'll alert the contractors
Me: Any idea how long they'll be?
Them: Should be there within 2 hrs. Hopefully less. Can you wait outside the block?

Me: Hi! Are you the heroes who are going to get me into my flat?
Contractor 1: Blimey. Look at the state of this door!
Me: Um. Yes. My husband spent a couple of hours trying to force it ...
Contractor 1 exchanges meaningful glances with Contractor 2.
Me: Still - looking on the bright side - it's good to know it's so hard to break in ...
Weak laugh.
Contractors 1 & 2 snarl and grind teeth.

Ring ... ring ...
Me: Hi. I'm in. It took them ages. They had to use every tool in their van. They're fixing the new lock now. Have you got FB yet?
G: No! The school's locked up and there's no one here ...
Me: He's not at his school. He's gone to a local primary school to do some PR
G: He's got swimming club this evening! I'll go to the other school to get him

Contractors still fitting lock and fixing damaged door.
I'm peeling potatoes.
Peeler comes apart in my hands.
Ring ... ring ...
Me: Hi
Meloney: It's Meloney
Me: I know
Mel: How? How do you know?
Me: Cos it comes up on the display thingy ...?
Mel: Wow. That's technology for you
Me: Mmmm. Indeed. So how can I help?
Mel: I was wondering if FB and LG were going swimming tonight
Me: Well, LG isn't cos he's in the Isle of Wight with your Skate Boy and Girly Twin
Mel: Oh yes. That's right ...
Me: And I can't be sure about FB cos he's not home yet. And we've been locked out. There's 2 guys fixing the lock as I speak. And my potato peeler's broken
Mel: Ah. Well. You know what that's about, don't you ...
Me: No. What is it all about?
Mel: It's that particle accelerator, isn't it? Making things happen. It's why you've had all those weird coincidences recently ...
Me: Right. The particle accelerator. So - about the swimming ...
Mel: Oh yes. So - if FB is going, can you bring Super Teen home with you afterwards?
Me: I'll let you know

Ring ... ring ...
Me: The contractors've just gone. Have you got FB yet?
G: No! I went to the other school and it's in darkness!
Me: Where did you go?
G: L school
Me: No! That's not right! It's K school ...
G: I don't know where that is ...
Me: Hang up. I'll look it up and call you back

Flick ... flick ... (Yellow Pages)
Flick ... flick ... (A-Z)

Ring ... ring ...
Me: Right. I've found it. Where are you now?
G: I'm on AP
Me: Let me see ... flick ... flick ... Ah yes. OK. You go to the end of the road, cross over the roundabout ...
G: Oh! Here he is now!

G and FB stagger in through resurrected door complete with lumpy filler embellishments.
Phone Mel.
Bolt food.
Dash out to swimming club.

So, tell me.
Are other people's lives like this?

Monday, September 08, 2008

The slippers needed to be fur-lined

The first ever Pipe & Slippers open air festival was really cool.
OK. That's not strictly accurate ...
It was bloody f-f-freezing.

Which was a shame, cos the line-up was awesome:
Katrina Naomi (fab poet)
Paul Ewer (novelist - sorry - couldn't find link)
Alice Gun (lovely harmonies and weird and wonderful instruments)
Wes White (described accurately as 'uncategorisable' - but v funny)
Maki and Kola (free form jazz dancers that need to be seen to be believed)
Paddy Steel (P&S organiser reading from work in progress)
Jacqueline Walker (reading from Pilgrim State)
Stuart Silver & the Ukelele Orchestra (I expected a wall of sound from massed ranks of teensy string instruments - I saw instead one man with a surreal sense of humour that cracked me up)
Citizen Helene (sweet sounds)

It was an honour to be part of this line-up.
But I couldn't help wishing we had a roaring log fire or three ...

Meanwhile - I have to tell you that I can't be sure that I exist at this point in time.
G's back at work.
FB's back at school.
LG's in the Isle of Wight for 5 days.
And Blogger's playing up and it's been a bugger getting these links to work ...

So reminder me please ... who am I again?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Zen and the Art of Flatpack Assembly

1) Attain trance-like state by dint of extended deep-inhalation smoking on balcony.

2) Open packaging and lay out components, identifying them on instruction sheet.

3) Ensure all necessary tools are within reach. These will include screwdrivers in various sizes and a large container of prescription tranquillisers. (Valium is recommended but brandy can be substituted at a pinch.)

4) Close eyes, take several deep breaths, arrange features into beatific smile.

5) Begin working through instruction sheet one step at a time.
NB: This is vital. On no account should you permit your eye to wander ahead to the next stages. Live firmly in the present.

6) Resist desire to hammer in recalcitrant screws at rakish angles.

7) Ditto re reluctant edges.

8) Do not be afraid to repeat stage 1) as and when necessary.

9) Shriek at First Born, who doesn't understand zen approach and keeps saying he can see exactly what needs doing cos he's kinetic innit.

10) Warn both children that if they continue to interfere, you'll bugger off and they can put the bloody thing together themselves if they're so damn clever.

11) Bugger off and let them put the bloody thing together themselves since they're so damn clever.

12) Retreat to kitchen to cook tea.

13) Ignore howls of protest and insults hurled at your retreating back. You are a Zen master. These base emotions cannot touch you.

14) Resist urge to peep round doorway to see how they're doing.

15) Give in to urge.

16) Suppress disappointment at their progress.

17) Smile smugly when you hear a vital piece has been missed.

18) Wonder briefly if smug smiles are compatible with the zen approach.

19) Balance envy, admiration, disappointment and pride when viewing finished item.

20) Return to 1)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Poverty sucks!

I reckon that's one thing we can all agree on.

So it shouldn't be hard to get people to take part in this year's Blog Action Day on 15th October.

Last year, the focus was on the environment.

Yes, I know we haven't managed to call a halt to global warming or to force governments and industries to make serious changes.

But trickle by trickle, there has been a shift in opinion -
- and with 20,603 blogs participating last year with 23,327 posts reaching an approximate readership of 14,631,038 -
- who can say blogging wasn't a significant part of that shift and didn't make a difference?

So - this year the focus is on poverty.
Check the site here.
Watch the video.
Click the links.
Register your blog.
Get involved.

So far, 3,591 blogs are registered, with a readership of 7,243,768.
Can we make a difference?
If there's even the slightest possibility that you could improve life for a single person, can you justify NOT taking part?

To start the ball rolling here's a single anecdote.

When I lived in Grenada, there were days when there was barely enough food for a single meal.
I always shared what I had with the neighbourhood kids - I could never forget that I was living in that way through choice.
I could always wave my passport and leave if things got too bad.

One day, I had nothing.
No food for me and nothing to share.
It was the children who told me the strategy.
'Drink lots of water,' they told me. 'It will fill your belly and the hunger won't be so bad.'

Our world is rich.
There's more than enough to go round.
Only there are many who have a surfeit and many more who have nothing.
No child should have to know a strategy for dealing with hunger.

Click here to see how Blog Action Day (and you) could make a difference.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What's in the Pipe ...

Further details re the Pipe & Slippers festival on Sunday are now up on the site.

What a line up!
Hang on ... who's that down there referred to as a local hero ...?

Blimey - 'tis I ...

All we need now is some sunshine.

Hope to see you there. xxx